What an unbelievable night at the United Palace.
- Graffiti artists DISTER and FEEGZ solicited help from passersby to create a temporary street mural on Broadway at the entrance of the theater.
- A Latin trio perched at the top of the grand staircase played music welcoming the hundreds of guests.
- Actor/performer Ty Jones wowed the audience in the lobby with a poem he recited from a balcony on the mezzanine.
- Five honorees received awards from NoMAA for their contributions to the arts uptown, including Word Up Community bookstore, its 50+ volunteers, and real estate sponsor Vantage Properties.
- Nineteen-year-old Aurelis Troncoso, a member of the Power Writers program, closed the ceremony with a moving spoken word performance.
- The festivities continued with danceable jazz played by Harry Ettling’s band and Josh Gilgoff’s drums.
(Lots of photos and links to news reports at the bottom of this post.)
If I had been able to create the perfect job for myself when I left the Manhattan Times nearly a year ago it would have been to work on opening the doors at the United Palace to more local artists.
That dream scenario began to play out on Thu., May 31 when the kickoff of the 10th annual Uptown Arts Stroll was held at the monumental theater at the corner of Broadway and W. 175th Street.
A few weeks ago Bishop Xavier, who has overseen the building and church housed there since his father Reverend Ike passed away in 2009, offered me a job helping to launch the new United Palace of Cultural Arts. (Click here for additional background on the Palace’s history and the developments over the last couple of months.)
The picture above is of me in the middle of the Stroll kickoff. Can you sense the joy that I’m feeling this night? Upon seeing it, my brother wrote: “You look happy, comfortable, and in your element.”
In my element – that’s probably the best way of putting it. Smack dab in the middle of the intersection of arts and community. (BTW: the photo is by Paul Lomax, who is building great photojournalism credentials here in NYC after a long career across the pond.)
I have spent 10 years trying to foster a greater sense of community uptown through the Manhattan Times newspaper, nine years helping to build the Uptown Arts Stroll, and five years supporting the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA). Together, they provide Northern Manhattan’s artists a showcase event for their work and an organization to promote, educate, and serve them. The only thing missing was a world class place to showcase our artists and bring other arts programming uptown.
Oh what a place the Palace is.
We are just getting started. Tomorrow night, June 8, will be a free screening of the documentary “To Be Heard” about a spoken word program for teens in the South Bronx called Power Writers. We hope to lure them to the Palace to begin working with local youths. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for what comes next as we begin laying the foundation for creating a new arts and cultural center uptown.
Just think of it: a palace for arts in culture in Washington Heights.
Below are some of the photos I managed to take during the kickoff while running around like a madman making sure the evening went smoothly. Above them are several links to stories written about the kickoff by the local media.
DNAinfo – Story by Carla Zanoni & photos by Paul Lomax
Uptown Collective – The Recap by Led Black & photos by Paul Lomax
NY1 Noticias – Spanish news report captured by Gloria Pazmino
Uptown Collective – Photos by DJ Boy
Manhattan Times – Story and photos by Sandra E. Garcia